News of Friends of Grasslands

Supporting native grassy ecosystems

May-June 2006

ISSN 1832-6315

In this issue

News roundup

A committee after my own heart (or obsession?)

FOG: SA grasslands tour- day two

Forde: a catty review

Water couch and swamp millet – water loving native grasses


Program in May-June

SAT and SUN, 20 and 21 MAY Visit heathland near Mollymook with Jackie Miles. We plan to visit "Sydney sandstone" vegetation at the Little Forest Plateau just a bit north west of Milton on Saturday and another site on Sunday morning. Contact Margaret (details back page) for accommodation and meeting details, but meeting at 11am in Ulladulla on Sat 20 May and bring lunch.

SAT 17 JUNE 2:00 to 4:30pm Goulburn grasslands and Southern Tablelands palaeoecology. Greg Baines, project officer for the Natural Temperate Grassland Recovery Team, will talk on the work of the recovery team and particularly the recent grassland surveys in the Goulburn region. Geoff Hope, professor of natural history at the ANU, is well known for his work in vegetation history or palaeoecology and has spent much time undertaking and analysing core samples in the region, and elsewhere, notably Papua New Guinea. He will talk on the vegetation of the Southern Tablelands during the last 100,000 years. Venue: Mugga Mugga Education Centre, Narrabundah Lane, Symonston ACT (opposite the Therapeutic Goods Administration Centre). Free event, afternoon tea provided.

Program for remainder of 2006

The program for the remainder of 2006 is set out on page two. Please take careful note of the dates. Several big events will include a visit to the coastal heathlands (16 and 17 September),a visit to Victorian grasslands (20 to 23 October), a FOG insect workshop (18 November), and a visit to southern grasslands and swamps (16 and 17 December). FOG also encourages members to come to the grassy ecosystem workshop being arranged by ANPC (29-30 November). On 26 Aug, FOG is inviting members to come along to show their own slides or give a presentation (10 to 20 mins) around grassy ecosystem themes – this is your change to tell the rest of us what you have been up to. Contact Margaret (details back page) for further details.

Photos cover page:

11 March: Working bee Cooma Common,

26 Feb: Kim (President), Susan and Paul (new V. Pres.), at the AGM.

26 March: Scabby Range Swamp.

Some diary dates

Margaret Ning

The following are FOG’s program dates for 2006 after June – please record them in your diary. For more details, please contact me (see back page).

Sat. 15 July 10am to noon. FOG’s winter grassland tour to Blundells Flat with Mark Butz.

Sat 26 Aug. 2 to 4:30pm FOG’s winter slide afternoon: you decide. Opportunity for members to present 10 to 20 min. slide show.

Sat and Sun, 16 and 17 Sept. Visit coastal heathland near Eden with Jackie Miles.

Fri. to Mon., 20 to 23 October. Visit to Terrick Terrick and Hamilton grasslands, Victoria.

Sat. 11 Nov. 9:30 am to 3:30pm. Working bee at Old Cooma Common, Cooma.

Wed 15 Nov. Lunchtime St Mark’s grassland with Benj Whitworth.

Sat. 18 Nov. 1:15 to 5pm. Discovering insects workshop with Kim Pullen and Roger Farrow. Mugga. Small cost.

Wed. 22 Nov.5 to 6pm. Visit to Hall Cemetery.

Sat 25 Nov. 10 to 11am. Mulanggari grassland with Benj Whitworth.

Sat and Sun, 16 and 17 Dec. Southern Grasslands and swamps with Roger Farrow.

Special interest to members

Wed-Thurs, 29-30 Nov. Australian Network for Plant Conservation ACT Grassy Ecosystem Workshop.

Of special interest in May

FRI to SUN 5-7 MAY Caring for Namadgi - Science and People Symposium. (see page 4).

News Roundup


16 FEBRUARY Twenty two people attended the FOG AGM which was informal but efficient. Kim Pullen chaired the meeting and reported on FOG for 2005. A copy of his comprehensive vice president’s report appeared in the last newsletter. FOG membership at the end of 2005 was 193.

Kim mentioned a number of people who had made a major contribution in 2005, including Geoff Hope (who as the other vice president shared the work of president), Di Chambers (who was secretary until she resigned to move to Darwin), Janet Russell (Di’s replacement as secretary), Sandra Hand (treasurer), Roger Farrow, Margaret Ning and Geoff Robertson (program, membership and newsletter), and David Eddy for work on Old Cooma Common.

Financially FOG is in a sound position. For 2005 there was a surplus of $900, after donations almost totalling $1,100 had been made. The largest donation was $600 to the Conservation Council to assist it to recoup the retrospective funding cut by the Commonwealth Government. Other contributions included to $200 for the Science Fair, $100 to the Monaro Weeds Committee and almost $200 for weeding on Cooma Common.

Jenny Bounds, new Conservation Council president, thanked FOG for the donation, and outlined the overall work of the council.

The election saw the old committee largely returned with a little shuffling of chairs. Kim Pullen took on the position of president, and Geoff Robertson vice president. New committee members include Paul Hodgkinson (second vice president), and Yola Melgarejo (committee member). A list of the committee can be found on the back page. Andy Russell agreed to become public officer.

Geoff Hope stood down from the committee. His wisdom and effort will be missed.

Roger Farrow raised his concern that the Braidwood Rural Protection Board was about to lease out a number of Travelling Stock Reserves with high grassy ecosystem conservation values. While not opposed to grazing, his and FOG’s view is that grazing should only occur as part of a strict conservation management regime, which is unlikely with these TSRs. The meeting resolved that FOG should follow this up.

Following the meeting Geoff Robertson provided a slide show and commentary on a number of FOG activities that took place in 2005. Others chipped in to add their comments. As Geoff said, this was an opportunity for those who attended these functions to reminisce, for those who did not attend to understand what had occurred, and generally to illustrate the diversity of FOG activities and the ecosystems it supports. Geoff said that he was happy to provide a copy of these slides to anyone who is interested.

A barbeque followed and there was a variety of sausages, including kangaroo, and chicken pieces, with some wonderful salads. This was topped off by some wonderful desserts. Christine’s and Roger’s stewed fruit needs special mention.

Some AGM photos: Helena Mills, Yolanda Melgarejo (new committee member), and Roger Farrow (former VP and now committee member).

National recovery plan for NTG

The national recovery plan for natural temperate grasslands of the Southern Tablelands (NSW and ACT) has now been released. We are enclosing a brochure, prepared by the recovery team, with this newsletter. FOG members are encouraged to follow this up and, in particular, to spread the brochure around. 

Gate on


11 MARCH It finally happened – the replacement gate was erected at Old Cooma Common (OCC). Fourteen people turned up to the FOG working bee not to mention Jim  Darrant’s (Cooma Council’s new and enthusiastic senior weeds inspector) two children who were delighted when they found two baby rabbits which they proudly displayed.

Apart from the gate, the main focus was removing whole plants of St John’s wort and spraying woody weeds. Margaret and Jim and Trish Williamson upped the ante by bringing large tanks of spray and a quad bike. While not an ideal time for spraying St John’s wort the effort will still set it back. FOG is also applying for more funding for OCC.

At day’s end many went to the pub for a celebratory drink before heading off in different directions. (Photos cover page and page 12.)

Veg futures conference

19 to 23 MARCH The Greening Australia (GA) and Land and Water Australia (LWA) conference was a highly successful and well organised event to which 550 people flocked, including sixteen FOG members, although some of these were recruited during the event. If you did not go, and even if you did (because you could not have attended everything), the full proceedings and then some, will be published on the web.

Limited space in this issue prevents us from providing a more complete wrap-up which the conference deserves. There will be a special article in the next newsletter.

ACT native veg forum


15 MARCH Seventy five people attended the forum on ACT native vegetation organised by the Conservation Council. There were four keynote speakers. Rosemary Purdie (ACT Commissioner for Conservation) spoke about her concerns for lowland native vegetation in the ACT, and Sarah Sharp (Wildlife Research and Monitoring, Environment ACT) talked on what is being done to manage lowland vegetation, and the approach being taken to classify vegetation communities to determine what should have conservation priority.

Sue Briggs (NSW Dept. of Environment and Conservation) and Russell Costello (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment) talked on how State native vegetation legislation operates to stop vegetation clearing, or to provide offsets when clearing is allowed of lesser quality vegetation, and to create opportunities for recovery of native vegetation.  

Other speakers included Maxine Cooper (Environment ACT) who considered the NSW and Victorian models unsuitable for the ACT, Mark Butz (Greening Australia) who spoke about the need to focus on net gain, Sherry McArdle-English (ACT rural landholder) who provided an example of the role some ACT rural lessees play in positive conservation outcomes, and Clair Gillingham (development industry) who spoke on the need for certainty in land planning to avoid conservation-development confrontation.

Stuart McMahon ably kept discussion on track, eliciting the views of all the audience. One thing was clear. Participants were unhappy about the clearing of ACT lowland native vegetation for development and wanted legislative mechanisms in place to stop that clearing.  

Fourth part of trilogy needed!

As promised, the third part of the ACT endangered communities and species trilogy has appeared, namely the Draft aquatic species and riparian zone conservation strategy, also titled, Action plan no. 29, ribbons of life. The earlier volumes in this series were the ACT woodland and grassland strategies to which this newsletter devoted many pages in recent years.

The main focus of the draft strategy is on the riparian zones and their endangered species in the Murrumbidgee and Molongo rivers in the ACT and their major tributaries.

Riparian zones contain particular types of habitat and vegetation and provide ribbons of connectivity. Obviously they were important to Indigenous people and very attractive to early settlers.

Some key elements of the strategy are the identification of vegetation plant communities, threatened and uncommon plants, threatened and uncommon fauna species, and the strategy to protect them and plan for best management. Among the target species are the trout cod, Macquarie perch, silver perch, two-spined blackfish, Murray River crayfish, Tuggeranong lignum, and the pink-tailed work lizard.

The major criticism of the draft to date is that the focus of the strategy is only on restricted riverine areas and it does not cover many riverine and tributary areas of the ACT, nor wetlands.

FOG will be putting in comments, so if you wish your comments to be reflected in its submission, please contact us at Comments are required by 25 May and to FOG much earlier. 

FOG education kit - We need your help

Kim Pullen

FOG is examining ways to provide for greater conservation outcomes. In recent years some FOG members have provided talks in schools and to parent groups using the FOG slides, and been involved in some school-related work. There is a lack of good school programs and materials on local biodiversity and so FOG would like to establish a group to look at a multi-media resource kit (consisting of internet materials, brochures, fact sheets, CDs) which would aim to deliver materials and expert help to local schools.

The group would work with other groups and individuals attempting to do similar activities. FOG would initially look at donating $500, but eventually would need to seek other finance. If you are interested in participating in this group, please contact me (see details back page). 

FOG budget deliberations

FOG budget sub-committee

The FOG Committee recently decided that it should take a more proactive role in spending its money to achieve good conservation outcomes. While both income and expenses are low relative to other groups, FOG last year spent $500 in memberships to other groups and made further donations of $1,070. It nevertheless made a small surplus of around $900. At the end of 2006, FOG had $10,000 in the bank. FOG's main sources of income are memberships, donations from members, workshops, and sales of Grassland Flora. While each item contributes a little, in sum they add up. FOG also gives a lot of one-off complimentary newsletters in order to show people what it is up to. This strategy brings us many benefits.   

For 2006, the committee has estimated its income and expenditure and has budgeted for a small deficit. It is looking to continue FOG's membership of various organisations which have mutual objectives, to continue to improve the website, to continue contributions to the Monaro Regional Weeds Committee and the Science Fair, and to spend a bit more on on-ground work associated with Old Cooma Common. It is also looking to spend $500 on an education kit (see box below). In the case of Old Cooma Common, we may also attract grant money to help us.

Caring for Namadgi symposium

The National Parks Association is organising a symposium, Caring for Namadgi - Science and People. It aims to bring together the general public, organisations, scientists, and historians from different fields and organisations to stimulate discussion about scientific research relating to Namadgi and its management. The symposium will cover several themes including the park's natural history, its water supply, bushfire management, climate change, Aboriginal and European history, and the challenges that lie ahead. Speakers include Ian Fraser, Matthew Higgins, Alec Costin, Roger Good, and staff from the ACT government. The daily registration fee is $10 a person. You can register online and pay at the door.

Details: 5-7 May 2006, Vikings Town Centre Club (the old Tuggeranong Sports Club), Cnr. Athllon Drive and Rowland Crescent, Tuggeranong, near the bus exchange. To register go to NPA website: Enquiries: Kevin McCue: 6251 1291 or

Kosciuszko to coast

Australian Bush Heritage Foundation is looking for ways to support grassland and grassy woodland conservation in the NSW south east region, and is considering buying some land as an anchor for a project called Kosciuszko to Coast or K2C. The anchor becomes a part of the Bush Heritage conservation reserve system, and the management of the reserve then attempts to encourage near and far neighbours to joint with it in managing land for both good production and conservation outcomes.

If the project is successful it will provide elements that will allow the linking of land in an ecological corridor, and small communities, from the alps to the coast.

Five priority communities will be encompassed by the project: natural temperate grasslands, box gum woodlands, wetlands, bogs and fens, river fringing woodlands, and snow gum grassy woodlands.

Members of the FOG committee have been giving advice to the project which is currently attempting to bring in a partnership of government, other important non-profit organisations, and community groups. Watch this space.

If you would like to know more, contact Owen at 

Yaouk Swamp

Paul Hodgkinson

Saturday 26 March 2006, Geoff Hope (ANU Centre for Asian and Pacific Studies) led a group of nineteen FOG members to Scabby Range Nature Reserve close to Yaouk NSW, just south of the ACT border. Yaouk Swamp lies at the base of these mountains and is a Carex gaudichaudii fen surrounded by snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora) grassy woodland interspersed with kangaroo grass and black sallee (Eucalyptus stellulata).

Elouise Peach, a NPWS ranger from the Tumut Office, guided our convoy to the edge of the swamp and we walked to a lunch spot amongst the snow gums. After lunch we walked slowly, botanising our way through the woodland fringing the swamp, and out across the sedge fen. Margaret Ning, Jackie Miles, Steve Douglas, and Roger and Sarah Hnatiuk compiled a species list of the vegetation community of the shallow sphagnum bogs and swamp. Many additions were made to the original species list for the swamp.

At a spot where Geoff and his assistant Ben Keaney determined would be suitable, they attracted some interest by coring out some muddy “giant black earthworms” and laying them on the sedges. They studied the pollen and charcoals found trapped in the mud and revealed some interesting facts about the recent history of vegetation in the region. Eucalypts have been growing in the region since 7,500 years ago when conditions changed to allow them to grow in the area. Prior to this time, during a period of glaciation that peaked 17,000 years ago, the species that dominated were Richea and Sphagnum. Poaceae increased during this period, correlated with a gradual peak in cyperaceae. The impact of European land management practices were seen with more frequent fires evident at this depth associated with late spring/early summer burning for promoting green pasture growth. The coring takes some effort, and Geoff mentioned that on a trip to Borneo cores were taken to a depth of sixteen metres!

Leaving Yaouk Swamp we drove over the clear waters of the Murrumbidgee River on Yaouk Road to a roadside quarry of sedimentary deposits left by the river eons ago. The layers of this gravel bed date to the Middle Pleistocene to Early Quaternary periods. It was tantalising to contemplate how many years ago these rounded stones and sands were deposited by the river.

Thanks to those that came along to make it a thoroughly enjoyable excursion, and especially to Geoff for organizing it all.

Photos: The FOG mob in Yaouk Swamp (top above), Ben Keaney holding a “giant black earthworm” (lower left), and a gentian in the swamp (above).

Another winner


I am always delighted to receive Australasian Plant Conservation, bulletin of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation. It usually has an exciting array of articles and news stories highly relevant to FOG.

The latest edition (Dec 2005 to February 2006) is no exception, and includes articles on the threatened ecological community, bluegrass dominant grasslands of the Brigalow Belt Bioregion (Don Butler), grassy box woodland CMN (Toni McLeish), and the rediscovery of the grassland Wimmera rice-flower (Pimelea spinescens) in Victoria (Sarah Kelly). Steve Douglas, who has written for the FOG newsletter, has an article on the scope for collaborative biodiversity conservation on church-owned land.

FOG submission on Crace

31 MARCH At the invitation of the ACT Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Planning and Environment, FOG made a submission on the proposed suburb of Crace (DV 257), stressing the importance of single paddock trees (yellow box and red gum), potential offsets for the loss of biodiversity, and issues associated with the proximity of the Crace grassland reserve. A copy of the submission can be obtained by contacting

FOG comment sought on ACT as a biosphere reserve

A nomination has been received to make the ACT a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and FOG has been invited to participate in an inquiry regarding this nomination. The inquiry is being conducted by the ACT Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Planning and Environment. 

Biosphere reserves are internationally recognised within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB). Their aims, under the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves, include fostering sustainable economic and human development, preserving landscapes, ecosystems, species, and genetic resources, and supporting demonstration projects, environmental education and training, and research and monitoring related to local, national and global issues of conservation and sustainable development.

The terms of reference for the inquiry are to cover the content of the proposed nomination document including issues arising from the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves, such as:

(i)        management of the nomination process

(ii)      the status and possible boundaries of the core, transition and buffer zones

(iii)     funding needs and sources

(iv)    how local stakeholders should be engaged in (a) planning, (b) education and training programs, and (c) research and monitoring activities

(v)      communication strategies and activities

(vi)    the timeframe and viability of the proposed nomination

(vii)   other relevant matters

Further information regarding the Seville Strategy for Biosphere Reserves can be obtained at

Members may wish to send comments on this nomination to the FOG committee for inclusion in a group submission or may wish to send their comments direct to the Committee Secretary, Dr. Hanna Jaireth, Standing Committee on Planning and Environment, ACT Legislative Assembly, GPO Box 1020, Canberra ACT 2601; email:  Comments sent to FOG should be lodged by 19 May at:  Comments lodged direct to the Legislative Assembly must be lodged by 2 June 2006.

North to Bathurst

Margaret Ning

One of the things I enjoy doing when Geoff leaves town is to get away myself, but only by four wheels. Thus I recently took the opportunity to visit FOG member, Marcia Bonham’s property near Bathurst, only three hours away.

Marcia is a FOG member who is running 50 cattle on her 500 acres of white box/yellow box woodland. By only running 50 cattle Marcia ensures that she always has one hundred percent ground cover, even in these dry times. There are some paddocks that she spells over spring and summer in order to allow the forbs and grasses to set seed. There is reasonable recruitment of juvenile eucalypts on the property but I don’t know if they were white or yellow box.

Marcia already has a small herbarium of her native forbs and shrubs, but on this occasion it was the grasses she was interested in learning more about. We drove and walked around parts of her property in an attempt to cover as much area as possible, and in addition to the grasses that we saw, Marcia also filled me in on where the chocolate lilies abounded in spring and where the blue devils were.

I was able to identify a dozen species of native grasses, most of which weren’t too difficult to put to species even though they were a few months past their prime. I am determined to return there next January to add to my list. Some of the many species we saw were rat’s tail grass (Sporobolus creber),a tall love grass (Eragrostis sp.), red grass, weeping grass, corkscrew grass, poa tussock, wheat grass, kangaroo grass, wallaby grass, hairy panic, purple wire grass, and brushtail speargrass (Stipa densiflora).


A Guide to the Indigenous and Naturalised Vascular Plants of the ACT excluding Jervis Bay


·         Over 4000 full-colour photographs of 1300 species of the 1350 species found in the ACT

·         Information on how to identify each plant species, and how to tell it apart from similar species

·         Information by field botanist with 20 years experience

·         Requires 1.2GB hard drive space to download to your computer

Full Licence $150 (student and quantity discounts available – ask us). Send payment made out to ‘Wildwood Flora’, Wildwood, 367 Koppin Yarratt Road, Upper Lansdowne NSW 2430

High Country Alliance

The third issue of the High Country Conservation Alliance newsletter has been released. Brian Wild’s president’s report mentions that work is continuing by Jim and Mary Kelton to bring the Brandy Mary’s lease with Forest NSW under a conservation agreement, and the possibility of the group participating in work to obtain better vegetation mapping for the Riverina Highlands.

The newsletter contains two articles on wild dog baiting in national parks. Both essentially oppose wild dog baiting. Jim Kelton’s article addresses his concern that the baiting is aimed at, or will have the effect, of reducing dingo populations to small isolated pockets and even extinction. He believes that DEC underestimates the role of the dingo as a predator, keeping kangaroo numbers in check, and its disappearance will lead to higher numbers of cats and foxes.

For more information about the alliance contact or 

Photo: Jim Kelton’s Bandy Mary’s lease. The High Country Alliance is supporting Jim’s efforts to obtain a conservation agreement.

Ngunnawal people

FOG understands that $50,000 has been granted to the Ngunnawal community for work on Ngunnawal land, Portions 45 and 47, Queanbeyan, just opposite the 120 hectare high conservation Gale Precinct woodland. Work on the Aboriginal owned land will facilitate the care of Gale Precinct by Queanbeyan Landcare members, who are already working with the Ngunnawal people, Queanbeyan Council  and Readymix Quarry on rock and fence barriers along Cooma Street.

Lake George legacy

17 APRIL in a two page spread in the Canberra Times, Rosslyn Beeby talks about the natural history of Lake George.  She quotes Rainer Rehwinkel, “a unique grassland occupies the lake bed when it’s dry … It is probably the largest remaining area of unmodified native grassland in the Southern Tablelands and I’ve yet to find another site with its unique combination of plant species.” Also a good photo Rainer!

Kim Pullen, CSIRO entomologist and FOG president is also quoted in the article on the habits of the Canberra raspy cricket.

Grassy ecosystem recovery

Issue 3 of the Communities for communities newsletterhas articles on the release of the recovery plan for natural temperate grasslands (see brochure included in this newsletter) and an update on Conservation Management Networks by Toni McLeish.The last issue of this newsletter mentioned how to get the Communities newsletter free.

As Toni’s article points out, CMNs have been mushrooming and now there are six in Victoria and three in NSW. The contact details for some are: Broken Boosey – phone 03 5761 1557, Gippsland Plains - 03 5153 2999, Wedderburn - 03 5430 4567, Northern Plains - 03 5440 1845 (Victoria) and Grassy Box Woodlands - 02 6298 9709 (, and Monaro Grasslands - 02 6242 8484.

Rural Fringe

Rural Fringe is a journal of the Hall (ACT) District which is published two monthly and its energetic editor Rhian Williams covers an incredible amount of material, eliciting it from many sources including FOG’s Geoff Robertson who has agreed to write six articles on grassland issues. In the February 2006 issue he wrote about protecting grasslands and woodland, and in the second about native grasses’ habits and habitats. For more information, contact

Speaking about FOG     

FOG is endeavouring to get the grassland message out there. Apart from the Rural Fringe, Geoff Roberson is now a regular contributor to Radio Landcare on 2XX hosted by Tom Baker and Margaret Piper, 9am Tuesdays (Geoff is endeavouring to be on the show on the fourth Tuesday each month). He also talked about FOG to a recent evening meeting in Cooma (22 March – the FOG slides went over very well) and represented FOG at the Kuma Nature Reserve Open Day on 10 March. FOG was also promoted at the Cooma Show (11 March) and at the native veg futures conference in Albury on 19 to 22 March.  

FOG website improving

The FOG website is taking on a new look thanks to recent efforts by vice president Paul Hodgkinson. So please have a look (address back page) and let Paul have your thoughts.

A committee after my own heart (or obsession?)

Margaret Ning

A little over a year ago I agreed to take over from Geoff Robertson as FOG’s representative on the Monaro Regional Weeds Committee. The committee meets three times per year, alternately in Cooma, Berridale and Bombala, where each of the 3 three Monaro shire councils are based. Other members of the committee include representatives from local government (Bombala, Cooma-Monaro and Snowy River Councils), state government (State Forests, NPWS, NSW DPI, DNR and RTA), rural lands protection boards (Cooma and Bombala), Landcare, NSW Farmers, Southern Rivers CMA, Monaro Grassland Conservation Management Network, Country Energy, and Snowy Hydro Ltd.

Since the Committee was founded in 1999 it has been striving towards greater coordination of weed control activity throughout the region, and participation by all land managers in the region in the development and implementation of weed-related regional plans and strategies.

The current Coordinator of the committee is a vegetation management officer from Snowy River Shire who works part-time in these two positions. Funding for coordination has come from grants and donations - for each of the last two years FOG has made a very small contribution of $100 towards the costs of running the coordinator’s position. The funding process is not without its foibles and some dexterous juggling of finances goes on from one year to the next.

For the last year I have sat in silence at committee meetings and taken in the way the meetings operate and the topics that are discussed, but I finally broke my silence at the last meeting with a few (relevant) comments on my own experiences with some weeds that Geoff and I have to deal with at our place at Nimmitabel. My previous very narrow perspective is broadening with every meeting that passes.

A topic raised at the most recent meeting was a request by a committee member for the committee to quantify its results in future for the benefit of farmers in the region, for example to show evidence of on-ground results in the area of weed inspections and enforcement. Documenting the Committee’s successes could also help support its applications for funding assistance and inform future activity. The committee adopted this suggestion enthusiastically. After all, everyone wants to hear that recalcitrants are being pursued!

The table below contains examples of the group’s objectives and outcomes for the 2004-05 year – a very good summary of what it is about.

Objective Measure of success Achievements 2004-5

To support and encourage greater participation between all partners in the MRWC in the implementation of regional plans and projects.

Regional weed projects developed for weeds with regional plans.

Partners in committee report on achievements against regional plans and projects.

Reports sent to NWAC on outcomes of regional plans.

Regional group projects developed for serrated tussock, African lovegrass, St Johns wort and a new project for broom.

Councils, RLPBs, NPWS , Snowy Hydro, Landcare and CMA reported to coordinator.

Reports submitted on serrated tussock, African lovegrass and St Johns wort plans and on funded group projects.

To improve monitoring of weed infestations and incursions on a regional basis to determine success and improve upon current strategies.

Annual production of regional weed maps for major weeds.

Annual production of maps for new and emerging weeds (eg orange hawkweed, Chilean needle grass, fireweed, spiny burrgrass).

New regional map for serrated tussock produced based on all aerial survey data 2000-2003 – coordinator works with consultant to provide maps, posters and combined dataset for all partners.

Weedmap implementation including on-ground mapping achieved in 2004-5. Regional Weedmap users group established. Agreement on methods of recording weeds, classes etc between three Councils.

Delays in combining datasets from three Councils due to lack of staff at CMSC.

To facilitate greater cooperation between the Councils, RLPB boards and other partners in the region to share resources, information and coordinate activities.

Field days, workshops and displays organised and promoted on regional basis.

Educational materials developed, shared and distributed by all partners.

Report by coordinator to MRWC meetings on activities.

Reports from MRWC to STSCNPC meetings.

Coordinator maintained and distributed list of field days and activities.

Get to know facts sheets developed by coordinator distributed to other Councils for use.

Coordinator organized distribution of “Weeds of the Monaro” booklet.

Coordinator on sub-committee to oversee development of new SouthEast weeds website ( using information from Weeds of the Monaro booklet.

FOG SA Grassland Tour: Day Two

Geoff Robertson, Margaret Ning, and Michael Treanor

This is part two of an article on FOG’s South Australian grassland tour. Part one was included in the November-December 2005 newsletter.

There were fewer participants on day two (15 October). Six people started from Burra at 9am and arrived in Laura around 10:15am to meet Paul Slattery, local farmer, part-time Greening Australia employee, and grassland enthusiast who had offered his services as guide for the day. First stop was the Laura bakery for provisions.

Laura Park

Not far from the bakery was Laura Park where Paul had taken over a small section in which he had planted local indigenous plants so that the locals could learn about their local plants. The sign at the entrance to the garden read “this garden holds examples of some local native plant species found in the Laura district. The plants to the west are from the woodlands towards Beetaloo Valley; those to the east are from the grasslands that used to cover the hills and plains between here and Jamestown; and the central plants grow throughout the whole district. We recommend that you visit the Tarcowie Native Flora Reserve (34kms north-east of Laura), which has a nature walk that passes through natural bushland. The establishment of this garden was funded by the Caltowie Corridors of Green Landcare Group.”

There were many good specimens of grasses, forbs and shrubs established in the garden through which a walking track meandered. Austral bugle (Ajuga australis) was one species which reminded us of the Canberra region, and there were some spectacular examples of feather speargrass (Austrostipa elegantissima).

The highlight was the spiny daisy (Acanthocladium dockeri). The nearby sign read “first collected 1860 by Bourke and Wills expedition in south-western NSW. Believed extinct until four sites discovered in mid-north SA in 1999 and 2000. Protected as critically endangered under the EPBC Act 1999. Please help to protect this species by not picking, damaging or propagating these plants.” This impressive grey-leafed daisy that had been grown from a cutting was a metre high and several metres wide – not an easily overlooked plant. With watering it was spreading vigorously.

Paul said that in the wild there were four populations of this plant, but each consisted of only one plant. Paul related that he had become interested in grassland conservation through the efforts of SA grassland icons, Millie Nicholls and Anne Prescott. One day he showed them a piece of the spiny daisy. Both were taken aback when presented with it, not being able to identify it – it turned out to be a species believed extinct. Paul’s uncle confirmed that this plant had always existed there.

Photos: Spiny bush daisy at Laura Park.


The next stop was a roadside where the spiny daisy had been discovered growing naturally. Paul mentioned that where we had stopped was Thornlea, the property that he had previously owned. Paul regularly visits this spot and slashes unwelcome plants. As a result the spiny daisy was spreading. Several other grassland forbs such as Australian bindweed, Vittadinia, Goodenia and Velleia were also present. We saw a large brown snake – unfortunately it was road kill.


Very impressed so far, we were blown away by the site along the Caltowie/Stone Hut Road. This was a very large roadside reserve, which at some stage had been severely scraped, but had given rise to the most amazing display of grassland flora. The site looked very healthy, with a good open structure and little weed. Between the various grasses which included poa species and a favourite, brush wiregrass (Aristida behriana), with its feather dusterlike inflorescence, were many everlastings and other daisies, other forbs including native flax (Linum marginale), and small shrubs including scaevola.

As Paul pointed out, the site represented the boundary of kangaroo grass and spinifex grasslands, as could be seen by examples of both species at the site. The site was surveyed by Meg Robertson in November 1997.

The highlight was the thirty plus specimens of leek orchid, possibly the scented leek orchid (Prasophyllum patens), which were at their best. Geoff saw a common scaly-foot legless lizard (Pygopus lepidopodus). Unfortunately it did not stay around long enough for a photo.

On the road again after Caltowie, it was possible to keep communication going between the two vehicles using Margaret’s walkie-talkies. Paul talked about the local vegetation which he said his grandfather had described as ‘no trees, only short scruffy stuff, about the height of a man’. It had largely been cleared in the 1870-80s. He mentioned that Yacka cemetery was a good example of grassland, but unfortunately we did not have time to visit the site. 

Tarcowie Native Flora Reserve

The Tarcowie reserve is a large reserve with vegetation varying from grassland, shrubby areas and short open eucalyptus and callitris forest. The reserve had a one kilometre walk on a well established and sign-posted track which allowed the group to stroll along and observe the variation in vegetation. The reserve was relatively weed free.

The grasslands themselves varied and in some areas there was much bare ground covered with cryptogams and profuse flowering of small everlasting daisies. The shrubs and climbers included senna, several olearias, clematis, and the spectacular holly-leaved grevillea (Grevilla ilicifolia) with its stunning black and red flowers.

Amongst the forbs, we saw numerous yam daisies and many other forms of daisy, bulbine lilies, and chocolate lilies. There were orchid species there too. 

Top photo: road stop at Thornlea where the spiny daisy was re-discovered. Paul is seen in photo with book in hand. Middle: Walking in Caltowie/Stone Hut Road – unfortunately the photo does not show the quality of the vegetation. Bottom: Michael Treanor at Tarcowie Native Flora Reserve.

Wirrabara Forest Reserve

So far we had visited grassland and shrubby areas. The last site was an open grassy forest and we were struck by the proliferation of sun orchids. It was hard not to tread on them. Several other orchids were sighted including pink ladies fingers. Unfortunately we could not spend much time at the site, and the group broke up to travel home in various directions.

Photos: Paul photographing sun orchids at Wirrabara Forest Reserve.


By the end of the second day, we had seen some wonderful grassy community vegetation and learnt what was being done to protect and manage it. We were left with the impression that some of the best remnants had narrowly survived and, if it was not for the efforts of a few individuals concerned with grassy ecosystems, they may have been overlooked and subsequently lost.

Paul Slattery is a good example of someone who has made an outstanding effort in this regard. FOG was very impressed with his dedication and generosity. Thanks Paul.

We would highly recommend visiting any or all the sites that we visited in the two days. Visitors will be in for a treat.    

References: It’s Blue With Five Petals, Wildflowers of the Adelaide region, written and illustrated by Ann Prescott. Published by Ann Prescott, SA, 1988.

Endnote: When Paul reviewed this article he mentioned “as an aside, "Caltowie" is supposed to mean "sleepy-lizard (shingleback) waterhole", and "Tarcowie" is "place of the wash-away water".  Here in SA, "owie" means waterhole, the same as WA's "ups". "Wirrabara" evidently means "place/creek of big trees".

Forde: a catty review

Margaret Ning

On the evening of Wednesday 12 April I went along to a community information session at Amaroo School to see the consultant’s draft concept plan for Forde, a new Gungahlin suburb (ACT) with Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve to the east, south east, and south of it. The promotional flier told me that the session would cover design principles, open space and recreation, relationship to Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, water conservation, stormwater management, traffic and transport, housing options, heritage elements, and community initiatives. I also knew that Forde was going to have a cat containment policy, and that was my main motivation for attending the meeting.

The information session comprised seventeen posters on various topics, including those mentioned above, arranged in a circle around the room, each with a ‘minder’ who was keen to answer questions on the many issues covered. I basically took notes on any interesting environmental references as I worked my way around the posters, searching for mention of the cat containment policy. Excerpts from my notes follow, with the poster topic in italic caps.

INTRODUCTION - “Forde will be the first master planned community in Gungahlin. Master planning enables an integrated approach to key elements of the development process including urban design, infrastructure, open space provision, landscaping, community facilities, environmental management, water conservation and management.”

SITE CONTEXT AND ANALYSIS – this poster included the information that the ubiquitous ‘series of ponds’ will be constructed to control storm water discharge. Mention was also made of Vegetation – there is ‘……minimal eucalyptus woodland remaining. The major tree stands have been preserved within open space areas,’ and Buffers – There will be a buffer along the boundary with Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve to protect against bushfires.

VISION – expressed “….connection to, and respect for, the natural surrounds.”

LANDSCAPE – contained “….6000 trees will be planted at Forde……. Greening Australia will employ three full-time trainees for a minimum of two years”.

MULLIGAN’S FLAT – This poster emphasised that Mulligans Flat was a place of Aboriginal and agricultural heritage; that it was one of thirty significant areas that make up Canberra Nature Park; gave a general description of its ecosystems; stated that it is regarded as an excellent place for bird and animal watching; and finally pronounced that, in consultation with Environment ACT, there were ‘a number of key strategies to protect Mulligans’. I read on with bated breath, surely this was where I would see the cat containment policy outlined. But no, five dot points later, and still no mention of a cat was in sight!

SUSTAINABILITY– Nineteen dot points on this poster – this MUSTbe where the cat policy will be mentioned! It bruited “central to the concept of sustainability is recognition of the importance of integrating social, economic, and environmental goals. Forde is to be a benchmark community for sustainability…..” No mention of cats though.

Forty five minutes and seventeen posters after I started, the word ‘cat’ had not featured in anything that I sighted! However while reading the posters I overheard two conversations between the minders and members of the public on the subject of the cat containment policy. I missed the beginning of the first query, and came in at the “I feel a bit torn when it’s a sparrow” stage (probably I misheard this bit?). I subsequently heard the minder say “so you don’t think it’s a negative?” and words to the effect of ‘We were worried about public opinion’, but the member of the public‘s response was tolerant of the policy. My second bit of eavesdropping was of one of the minders giving a confident explanation of the cat containment policy to a woman. He was very matter of fact, didn’t use an apologetic tone and told the woman that her husband’s present cat keeping arrangements probably wouldn’t stack up. He recommended she google ‘cat runs’ to get an idea of what they look like. She said she was familiar with them and they were not a pretty sight.

While taking notes for forty-five minutes, I stood out like a sore thumb and attracted more than my fair share of offers of help with questions. I tried to throw them off the scent by enquiring about the ACT Household Energy Rating System that will be applied to all dwellings in the Forde community (apparently it is more rigorous than the existing energy rating scale in local real estate offerings). But ultimately, wuss that I am, I chose not to ask any questions on the cat policy, and why it wasn’t mentioned in any of the posters. In my forty-five minutes, I would have seen approximately thirty people move through the display (it was open from 6.30 to 9pm) and if at least two of them brought up the subject of the cat policy in that time frame, it must be an item of interest to the public!

The first construction services in Forde will commence in July/August 2006, and the first dwellings will be completed twelve months later. Some land sales will also have occurred by July/August 2006 and there will be a display village by 2007. For anyone who is interested, the consultants have a website:, but, most surprisingly, to date, it has no mention of the cat containment policy!

FOG members relax after working bee at Old Comma Common. 11 March 2006.

Water couch and swamp millet – water loving native grasses

Michael Bedingfield

Native grasses grow right down to the edge of rivers and creeks, thus entering the riparian zone. Some grasses grow only on the water’s edge, blurring the boundary between grassy and riparian ecosystems. Swamp millet and water couch are examples of this. These natives are perennials, produce growth during the warmer months and are browned off by frosts. They like fresh water, are adapted to enduring floods, and recover after being under water for some time.

The botanical name for swamp millet is Isachneglobosa. It has soft stems which can be prostrate or erect and normally grows to about 30 to 40cm, but can be taller if supported. The inflorescence has many fine branches, with the oval shaped fruits of about 2mm length forming at their ends. It is widely distributed on the NSW tablelands and coast, also occurring in Queensland, Victoria, SA, and NT, as well as New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and south-east Asia. It grows in or next to fresh water. Grasses of New South Wales by Wheeler, Jacobs and Whalley, describes only this member of the Isachne genus. Most other members of this large genus of about fifty species occur in tropical Asia.

Water couch is known as Paspalum distichum. It is related to the paspalum which we find in our lawns, Paspalum dilatatum, which is not native. Grasses describes fourteen paspalum species, most of which are exotic. Water couch grows near fresh water, such as in dirty sand or mud. It has a prostrate or creeping growth habit, and sets down new roots from the nodes. It also creates new branches at the nodes, and in suitable circumstances can have extensive branching and so produce a loose mat. However, the inflorescence is usually erect and grows from a node with usually two short spikes at the top. These are about 2 to 3cm long, and consist of two rows of flowers or seeds along a central stem. The plant is distributed widely in NSW also occurring in all other states except Tasmania.

Both swamp millet and water couch can be found growing near the Murrumbidgee River at Point Hut Crossing in the ACT. They tend to flower and set seed in summer or early autumn in the Canberra area. Please refer to the drawings in which the two plants are shown at half normal size. These are very interesting grasses, and are worth checking out down at the river when the summer sun has dried off the grassland plants everywhere else.

Friends of Grasslands Newsletter

Do you want to subscribe to the newsletter? It comes out six times a year, and you can obtain it by joining FOG. You do not need to be an active member - some who join often have many commitments and only wish to receive the newsletter.

However, if you own or lease a property, are a member of a landcare or parkcare group, or actively interested in grassland and woodland conservation or revegetation, we hope we have something to offer you. We may assist by visiting sites and identifying native species and harmful weeds. We can suggest conservation and revegetation goals as well as management options, help document the site, and sometimes support applications for assistance, etc.

Of course you may wish to increase your own understanding of grasslands and woodlands, plant identification skills, etc. and so take a more active interest in our activities. Most activities are free and we also try to arrange transport (or car pool) to activities.

If you are already a member, why not encourage friends to join, or make a gift of membership to someone else? We will also send a complimentary newsletter to anyone who wants to know more about us.


How to join Friends of Grasslands

Send us details of your name, address, telephone, fax, and e-mail, etc. You might also indicate your interests in grassland issues. Membership is $20 for an individual or family; $5 for students, unemployed or pensioners; and $50 for corporations or organisations - the latter can request two newsletters be sent. Please make cheques payable to Friends of Grasslands Inc.

If you would like any further information about membership please contact Margaret Ning, or if you would like to discuss FOG issues contact Kim Pullen, Janet Russell or Geoff Robertson. Contact Us. We look forward to hearing from you.


Supporting native grassy ecosystems

Address: PO Box 987, Civic Square ACT 2608

Your committee:

Kim Pullen                              President                                

Paul Hodgkinson                     Vice President                        

Geoff Robertson                     Vice President/newsletter      

Janet Russell                           Secretary                                

Sandra Hand                            Treasurer                                

David Eddy                             Committee                             

Roger Farrow                          Program                                  

Christine Kendrick                  Committee                             

Yolanda Melgarejo                  Committee                             

Margaret Ning                         Membership/program            

Dierk von Behrens                  Committee                             

Benjamin Whitworth              Committee                             

Public officer

Andrew Russell

Friends of Grasslands Inc 

PO Box 987

Civic Square ACT 2608